The Oscar Quest: The Full Extent

I throw around the phrase “Oscar Quest” a lot on this blog. But I don’t think I’ve quite explained what it truly means.

Last May, somewhere between the 24th (the day after I graduated) and June 1st (I think I pinpointed the 29th as my “official” start date, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll just use that week as a timeframe), I decided I was going to watch every film ever nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director — all that jazz. You know this by now. That’s the barebones of it all.

What actually happened at that time was, I went and wrote down, by hand (on a computer, but still), every single nominee in all of those categories. I also did this for the corresponding Golden Globes categories (which are further split into Drama and Musical/Comedy categories for Picture, Actor and Actress), sans repeats. I typed all of this in one very large Word document. Then I went through the document, and any film I’d seen already, I crossed off. In hindsight this was stupid, but at the time, the goal was just to see them all. So once that was done, I had a document that was 56 or so pages long. And it had a lot of films I needed to see on it. So that’s what I did. Started watching films.

I began tackling the list by organizing it by number of nominations. This strategy worked twofold. First, it allowed me to get a handle on which films were “favorites” of their respective years, and, more practically, it allowed me to remove huge chunks of the document at once. In the first month, many films had at least 7 nominations. Watching 5 films could take an entire page off the document. Boy, those were the days…

I got through the summer whittling down several pages at a time. By the end of August, I managed to get 20 pages or so off the document. It was around that time I decided that the Globes needed to be taken off. They aren’t as important as the Oscars, plus, they nominate shit like Sleepless in Seattle. I didn’t want to have to deal with all the crap they nominate in the Musical/Comedy categories. So then we got back to just the Oscar films (which were around 4 nominations a piece). Which were always the primary point. Hell — it’s called “The Oscar Quest.”

The Globes nominations being there didn’t really disrupt anything. At that point I had so many films to watch, the only side effect they had (aside from adding 20 pages to my list) was having me watch a few films earlier than I would have otherwise. (Some films had 7 nominations, but only 2 of them were Oscar nominations.) I was going to watch them anyway, so it really didn’t matter. Plus, once I lopped off all the Globes nominations, the document shrunk to 26 pages. Going from 40 pages to 26 was worth whatever slight disruption they caused.

Then September came. This is when I decided to start the blog. Which was probably a good thing, since it’s possible that once I got to having nothing but films with only 1 or 2 nominations I’d have gotten frustrated that I wasn’t eliminating pages as quickly as I’d been doing all summer and given up on the whole thing. Because, at that point, what was I actually accomplishing with it? Who was even gonna know or believe that I’d done it? Actually — me knowing that I’d probably have this reaction was probably what led to me deciding to start the blog.

Plus there was the date. That was a huge part of it. I’d been toying with the notion of a blog, but not seriously, until I saw that I had the opportunity to start it on 1/1/11. The date was too good to pass up. That’s really the reason this blog exists. Without me really wanting to have the first post be on that date, I’d have been way too lazy to even consider doing something like this.

So I kept plugging away, and when 1/1/11 rolled around, I had somewhere between 525-535 films left to watch. Since that point, I’ve done a good job keeping track of the whole thing. The only major note about that period is, I restructured the Word document like the Where We Are Now article, so I’d know whenever I finished a category and could write it up. It became about finishing categories, and not # of nominations.

That pretty much brings us up to date. A lot of this is covered on the blog. I just wanted to fill in some holes and really explain in detail how I went about this whole thing. It’s for posterity purposes, and also because I really want to give you a sense of what was accomplished in these past 14 months, aside from just a vague notion of an “Oscar Quest.” You hear that phrase without knowing what it truly entails, all you’ll do is think of it as “that thing Mike’s doing.” But if I put concrete numbers on the whole thing, then you realize what was actually achieved.

With that goal in mind, trying to put a concrete number on it, I sat down to try and figure out just how many films I watched over the past 14 months. I feel like if I didn’t do that, people could just be like, “So you just used watched a bunch of movies for a year as an excuse for not doing anything.” Which is partially true. I did decide to take a year to do whatever I wanted before venturing out into the real world. And this Quest is what I decided to do during that year. But even so, I want you to at least appreciate how well I accomplished it.

I began the count by starting with the obvious number, which was the number of films I saw for the first time because of the Oscar Quest. (I only included films I watched since the Quest began.) How I did this, you’ll find out about very soon. (Basically, I created a document that makes it easy to scroll through all the categories and know if a film is appearing for the first time or has appeared in an earlier category.)

The first count was 885 films. That’s almost an exact number, since all I had to do was go down the list and count. But since the number came out so perfectly rounded, I had to assume I messed up somewhere. Nothing is that perfect. It is possible I missed a film or two. Which would really only add to the total, not diminish it. So let’s just use 885 as the number. We’ll try to be as conservative as possible. No need to overcompensate. The number is impressive even without attempts to pad it. (Though, the margin of error on those 885 films is less than 10.)

So we’ll use 885 as a base number. However, we have to amend that figure. Because 885 is the total number of films I hadn’t seen. Since I’m not technically finished with the Quest (I still have 33 films to see), the actual number of films I’ve seen is 852. Which, to reflect upon that: in the past 14 months, between May 29, 2010 and July 29, 2011 (you know I finished it the same date I started it), I watched at least 850 movies I had not seen before. That’s 2 new films per day. And that’s just Oscar films. We haven’t even gotten to the other stuff yet.

If you know me (and if you’re reading this, chances are you do), you’ll know that I make it a point to try to see every major film that comes out (and many minor films as well). Major meaning wide release and minor meaning smaller, limited releases. Last year, I honestly saw just about everything that came out. That’s not an overestimation. If it got a wide release, I saw it. And smaller releases, I got in a pretty good number. (Seriously, you name it, I saw it. Excluding the people who live in indie theaters.) So we have to take those films into account as well.

The number of new releases I watched was actually quite easy to figure out. Using the wonderful (and I mean that. If you want to know anything of substance that’s coming out or came out, use these articles. I check the 2011 one at least twice a day) 2010 in Film and 2011 in Film Wikipedia articles, all I had to do was count them. For these, I have an exact number. The films I’m counting here are the ones I saw after I came home from college (meaning everything that came out between last May 23rd and this July 1st, plus a few that were out before then that I watched after I got home) that weren’t the 2010 Oscar nominees. Those obviously were counted as part of the original 852.

After counting all the new releases that I watched, I came up with 143 films. Which brings us to (counting only the Oscar films I hadn’t seen, and the new releases I saw) 996 films. Those two numbers alone put us at roughly 1,000. But wait, there’s more. Because, we have to take into account the films I watched during the past 14 months that I hadn’t seen before, saw for the first time during those months, and weren’t Oscar films or new releases. Ya follow? Let me explain. I already counted Oscar films I hadn’t seen before, and the new releases I (obviously) hadn’t seen before. Now I’m counting the films I hadn’t seen before that aren’t in either of those two categories. Just checking.

This category is probably the hardest to figure. Because non-new release and non-Oscar films — I could have watched them anywhere. There’s no definitive record of them. I could have been flipping channels one day, happened upon something and been like, “Hmm…haven’t seen this,” and I’d never know. Who keeps track of that? So there’s really no way to completely accurately gauge how many of these films I watched. The only definitive number I have to go by is on Netflix. I went through the list on my account page of all the films I rented between the start of the Oscar Quest and today, as well as the ones I Watched Instantly between then and now. The numbers I have are 59 mailers, and 77 Watch Instants. These numbers are irrefutable because I have the list on my account page. I can see them.

Figuring out how many I saw on top of those 136 films is wherein the rub lies. The only real way to figure an exact number is to go through Netflix, look through every film I’ve ever rated, then figure out which ones I saw for the first time in the past 14 months (since I make it a point to rate everything I see, if I can) that weren’t new releases or Oscar films. (Which…I’ve rated over 5,000 films. That’ll happen.) And even then, that’ll only be so accurate. Because a lot of the films I’m going to have seen will not be on Netflix to be rated. (I watch a lot of TCM. I can think of a few films offhand I saw that are not on Netflix.) 20% of the Oscar Quest (at least) isn’t on Netflix. Plus, even if whatever I watched was available to be rated, it’s possible I didn’t rate it. I’m still finding films on Netflix I’ve seen but haven’t rated. So there’s really no way to figure out an exact number on this. We’re going to have to estimate. But before we do that, let’s just check back in on a total.

We had 996 films. Now we have the 136 films I rented/watched on Netflix that weren’t Oscar films or new releases. That puts us at 1,132 films. And that number, to remind you, is of films I hadn’t seen before. Now, as for the estimation part, here’s where I need to take caution. I need to be fair, but also not be too liberal or too conservative. I’ll provide as much information as I can to explain how I reached my decision.

The number of films I watched on TV (that weren’t on TCM) is very minimal. The only channels my cable box is ever on are TCM and football. And occasionally an On Demand channel. So the number of films I watched simply by flipping channels is definitely less than five. However, I did have the habit of, when I ate lunch, I’d check the On Demand channels for films I hadn’t seen before. And I’d watch them over the course of two or three lunches. But the movies I watched On Demand couldn’t be more than five either. The bulk of the number comes from TCM.

Having had so many Oscar films to watch (many of which aren’t available on Netflix), I spent a lot of time in those months combing through the TCM schedule. And in looking through everything they were gonna play over a three month span, I ended up finding (aside from the Oscar films) a lot of films I wanted to see (either because I hadn’t seen them yet or because they just looked interesting). I’m positive I didn’t watch most of the films. But I did watch a fair amount. Either I needed to see it (it was a major one I hadn’t seen yet), it wasn’t available on Netflix, or it was scheduled between two Quest films and I just kept the channel on. These films are where the bulk of the number is coming from.

Trying to put a number on that, being as fair and conservative-leaning as possible (bleeding heart), let’s call it 18 films. It’s probably more, but, let’s just call it 18 to round out the total to an even 1,150 films. I’ll sacrifice extra numbers for the sake of an even count. So that’s 1,150 (or so. But I think we get that) films I hadn’t seen before. Now, we have to deal with the films I had seen before. Because I did watch those too.

I own between 700-800 DVDs. Sometimes I want to rewatch films I love. I can guarantee you that I’ve watched The Thin Man at least 10 times since January (even though that counts as an Oscar film I’ve rewatched. We’ll get into those shortly). I’m constantly rewatching films I love. There’s almost no way of telling how many films I’ve rewatched in the past year. When I started the Oscar Quest, I was in the process of completing my graduation gift to myself — watching all the Bond films, from 1-22. I was only up to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when I got home. (I also watched Never Say Never Again, so, 23.) That’s 18 films right there. I also have trilogy days. I watch the Pirates films (the first one counts as an Oscar film), the Rings films (all Oscar films), Dark Knight (also Oscar). These are films I use as breathers between all the Oscar films. You watch eight or nine historical dramas from the 30s in a row, you need to decompress by watching the comfort films.

Then there’s Tron. You know how many times I watched Tron: Legacy from beginning to end because of those articles? It’s at least 15 times. And that’s not an overstatement. If it’s anything, it’s an understatement. So there’s really no way of coming up with a 100% accurate gauge of how many (non-Oscar) films I rewatched in the past 14 months. I’m going to have to just come up with as accurate a guess as possible. The way I’m doing that is by going through all my DVDs and counting the (non-Oscar) films I know I’ve watched since graduation.

I counted 118 (including multiples for certain films). This is a conservative estimate. Because I also know, while visiting my friends on campus the past year, there were many a day and night where we watched movies on Netflix Instant. Both drunk and sober. I specifically remember watching Cool Runnings, Street Fighter (the Van Damme one), The Goods, Star Trek, Crank 2, Legion, Black Dynamite at least twice, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans at least twice…hell, I can’t even think to guess which films I watched with Shiho (am I right, Colin? How many do you think that could have been?). I think (and I have witnesses to vouch for it), that we can safely bump this up another 20 films. At least. (We’ll call it 22, make it even.) Even the people who were there might consider that a really conservative effort.

So adding on the 140 gives us 1,290 films. Oh, wait, didn’t count the Bond films. So, 1,308. And we still have a bit more to do.

The last category we have here, which is the most problematic, is Oscar films I rewatched. Because as I went through my DVDs, I noticed that a lot of films I own are, technically, Oscar films. All That Jazz, The Apartment, The Third Man, Arthur, Mockingbird – these all count as Oscar films. And I can tell you for a fact that I watched them each several times over the past 14 months. Hell, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an Oscar film. I know that’s been watched five times since January, at least. Gone With the Wind, at least twice. Any time it comes on TCM, I watch it. Shit – The Red Shoes? There are a lot of repeats just on my favorite films alone.

Not to mention (to go back and explain a comment I made earlier), I had to also rewatch a bunch of films from the Quest itself. Remember when I said initially taking off everything I’d seen before was stupid in hindsight? That’s because, when I did it, I didn’t know I’d be starting the blog. So the whole time I was watching by number of nominations, just to see the films, I wasn’t paying attention to what specific performances were nominated. Then I’d be writing up articles for some categories and be like, “What was that performance?”, not even remembering it being in the film, or not having clocked it at all. Or, maybe a film was kind of boring, so I tuned out for some of it, and now I have to go and talk about it. Or maybe a category was really tough (like Best Actress, 1954), and I needed to rewatch the films to see who I was gonna vote for. (The moral here, kids, is, when you do something, do it right the first time.) Point being, I rewatched a bunch of Quest films. And those count toward the total number of films I’ve watched over the past 14 months. So we have to count them.

The number of those films (films from the Quest that I rewatched over the past 14 months) are problematic for several reasons. The main reason is that I have to go through all the Quest films and count them out. That can get complicated because, the majority of those are films I saw for the first time in the past 14 months. So I’m looking through a big list of films I saw for the first time, then need to figure out which of those I saw twice. Then I also need to go through the ones on that list I’ve seen many times and estimate how many times I rewatched them during that time frame. It’s not difficult, just, annoying. Though it’ll be like the original count of the 885. The margin of error will be small.

Having gone through and counted all the films I rewatched from the Oscar Quest, I came up with about 121 films. So, adding those on to the existing total, 1,308, brings us to a final total of 1,429 films. That’s our final number — 1,429 films. (I’m adding one more. Even it out.)

1,430 films in 14 months. That’s how many I watched. That’s also not counting all the television I watched during that time. Because I did watch entire seasons of House, How I Met Your Mother, Weeds, Entourage, and two seasons of Archer (I can also guarantee you I watched every one of those Archer episodes at least 3 or 4 times. I can quote that motherfucker wall-to-wall.). But we won’t count TV toward the number. I just want you to know that I watched all of that alongside the 1,430 films. Just so you know I’m not a slacker or anything.

That’s the full extent of the Oscar Quest. I watched 1,430(+) films in 14 months. And on top of that, I also started this blog, on which this is the 454th post (averaging out to just over 2 per day. And of the 454, 268 are legit articles that took time to write. The rest are Pics of the Day), visited my friends at school nine times (lest you think I was anti-social. Which, actually, if you add up all those visits, that’s an entire month where I wasn’t watching movies, aside from like, 20. So, really I did all this in 13 months), and moved out to Los Angeles (which involved searching for, obtaining and furnishing an apartment, as well as all the packing and travel involved).

So what have you done the past 14 months?

One response

  1. This is awesome. I’m doing something similar but I am starting with only the films that won Best Picture and one I’ve finished those I’m going to expand.
    Orangechair (a rainbowchair writer)

    February 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm

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